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31 Madiou, Histoire d’Haiti, i, 96, 235; iii, 33.


John K. Thornton, ‘“I am the subject of the King of Congo”: African political ideology and the Haitian Revolution’, Journal of World History, 4/2 (1993), 181-214.

33 Madiou, Histoire d’Haiti, i, 176, 182.

34 Though often dated to 14 August, through confusion with an distinct earlier meeting of leaders of the slave insurrection: for discussion, see David Geggus, ‘The Bois Caiman ceremony’, Journal of Caribbean History, 25/1-2 (1991), 41-57.

35 Different versions are quoted e.g. by Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti, 42; Geggus, ‘The Bois Caiman ceremony’, 41. For a recent literary elaboration of the story, see Déita, La légende des Loa: Vodou haitien (Port-au-Prince, 1993), 9-12.

36 Geggus. ‘The Bois Caiman ceremony’.

37 James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery (2nd ed., London, 1993), 179.

38 Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1793), quoted in Roger D. Abrahams & John F. Szwed (eds), After Africa: Extracts from British Travel Accounts and Journals of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries concerning the Slaves, their Manners and Customs, in the British West Indies (New Haven, 1983), 69.

39 Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the West Indies (Ithaca, 1982), 122-3.

40 Ibid., 218. Maroon tradition also recalls that the treaties signed with the British (in 1739 and 1796) were sealed by ‘a binding oath pledged in rum and blood’.

41 Matthew Lewis, Journal of a West India Proprietor (ed. Judith Terry, Oxford, 1999), 137 [16 March 1816].

42 Craton, Testing the Chains, 235-6, 277, 281-3, 300. Note, however, that one account claims that a blood/earth oath as described by Edwards was used in the 1831 insurrection: R.R. Madden, A Twelve Months’ Residence in the West Indies (1835), in Abrahams & Szwed, After Africa, 199.

43 Odette Menesson-Rigaud, ‘Le rôle du Vaudou dans l’indépendance d’Haïti’, Présence africaine (févr.1958).

44 Deren, The Voodoo Gods, 66-7.

45 Cf. also Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti, 88-9.

46 Guérin Montilus, ‘Guinea versus Congo lands: aspects of the collective memory in Haiti’, in Joseph E. Harris (ed.), Golbal Dimensions of the African Diaspora (2nd ed., Washington DC, 1993), 159-65. The same stereotypical contrast appears in Déita, La légende des Loa, 5, 8, which credits Boukman with Dahomian ancestry, but claims that details of the Bois Caiman ceremony were betrayed to the whites by ‘certain Congos, spies of the whites’.

47 This assertion is advanced only tentatively, based on the silence of the limited selection of the literature which I have read: esp. Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti; Deren, The Voodoo Gods; Milo Rigaud, Secrets of Voodoo (trans. Robert B. Cross, San Francisco 1985).

48 Cited in Métraux, Voodoo in Haïti, 36.

49 Various deities in the Gbe-speaking area of West Africa are represented or conceptualized as serpents (Dan), but the worship of actual snakes was specific to the cult of Dangbe, the royal python, the national deity of the Hueda (Ouidah) people. In Haiti veneration of living snakes seems to have died out after the nineteenth century, and Dangbe is no longer (if he ever was) a major deity, though his name is not totally forgotten: cf. Rigaud, Secrets of Voodoo, 51, 58, 62 (referring to Yé Dan-Gbé). Presumably Dangbe in Haïti was largely subsumed into the cult of the Damballa-Wedo, the rainbow deity, symbolized by a serpent (though not incarnated in actual snakes), which remains one of the leading ‘Rada’ deities.

50 See discussion by Geggus, ‘Haitian voodoo’.

51 Cf. Métraux, Voodoo, 169: ‘black pigs are set aside for the petro loa, guinea fowl for the Ibo, turkeys for the Kaplau-ganga, dog for the Mondongue’.

52 Again, this assertion is based on the silence of relevant secondary literature: Georges Balandier, Daily Life in the Kingdom of the Kongo from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century (trans. Helen Weaver, London, 1968); Anne Hilton, The Kingdom of Kongo (Oxford, 1985); John K. Thornton, The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition 1641-1718 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1983). A study of one group in the interior, the Bobangi, does refer to a form of ‘blood brotherhood’, employed to cement commercial partnerships, but this involved the direct mingling of the participants’ blood, through cuts in their wrists, rather than drinking it: Robert W. Harms, River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500-1891 (New Haven, 1981), esp. 188-90. The references to ‘blood brotherhood’ as a feature of commercial organization in West-Central Africa in Joseph C. Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capital and the Angola Slave Trade, 1730-1830 (London, 1988), seem to derive solely from Harms’ account. A form of ‘blood covenant’ was used in the Yeke kingdom in Katanga, but is explicitly described as an innovation, introduced from East Africa in the early nineteenth century, rather than an established local practice: Jan Vansina, Kingdoms of the Savanna: A history of Central African states until the European conquest (Madison, 1966), 227, 234.

53 Oldendorp, in Brown, ‘From the tongues of Africa’, 55.

54 Métraux, Haitian Voodoo, 42-3.

55 Paul Hazoumé, Le pacte de sang au Dahomey (Paris, 1938).

56 Esp. A.J. Argyle, The Fon of Dahomey (Oxford, 1966), 156-69.

57 Hazoumé, Le pacte du sang, 104.

58 Hazoumé, Le pacte de sang, 58, 62, 66, 68, 71, 80.

59 Ibid., 98.

60 Paul Hair, Adam Jones & Robin Law (eds), Barbot on Guinea: The writings of Jean Barbot on West Africa, 1679-1712 (Hakluyt Society, London, 1992), ii, 641.

61 ‘Relation du royaume de Judas en Guinée’ (ms in Archives Nationales, Section d’Outre-Mer, Aix-en-Provence: Dépôt des Fortifications des Colonies, Côtes d’Afrique, 104), 64.

62 For references, see Robin Law, The Slave Coast of West Africa 1550-1750: The impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on an African society (Oxford, 1991), 114-15.

63 Caroline Sorensen-Gilmour, ‘Badagry, 1784-1863: The political and commercial history of a pre-colonial lagoonside community in South-West Nigeria’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Stirling, 1995), 120-22.

64 Robin Law (ed.), Further Correspondence of the Royal African Company of England relating to the ‘Slave Coast’, 1681-1699: Selected documents from Ms. Rawlinson C.645-747 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992), no.53: John Carter, Ouidah, 10 May 1687.

65 William Snelgrave, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea (London, 1734), 22.

66 Brown, ‘From the tongues of Africa’, 58.

67 Pieter de Marees, Description & Historical Account of the Gold Kingdom of Guinea (trans. Albert van Dantzig & Adam Jones, Oxford, 1987), 108; Wilhelm Johann Müller, in Adam Jones (ed.), German Sources for West African History 1599-1669 (Wiesbaden, 1983), 174-6.

68 Thomas Phillips, ‘Journal of a voyage made in the Hannibal of London’, in Awnsham & John Churchill, Collection of Voyages & Travels (London, 1732), vi, 224; William Bosman, A New & Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea (London, 1705), 149-50.

69 L.F. Rømer, Le Golfe de Guinée 1700-1750 (trans. Mette Dige-Hess, Paris, 1989), 77-8; Paul Erdman Isert, Letters on West Africa & the Slave Trade (trans. Selena Axelrod Winsnes, Oxford, 1992), 129-30.

70 Robin Law (ed.), The English in West Africa 1681-1683: The local correspondence of the Royal African Company of England, 1681-1699, Part 1 (Oxford, 1997), no.409, inclosure: note by James Nightingale, George Phipps, and William Pley, Accra, 9 Sept. 1681. For other instances of ‘fetish’ oaths in this corpus, see nos 1, 23, 28, 55, 59-60, 196, 385, 387, 411, 516, 540.

71 Donald C. Simmons, ‘An ethnographic sketch of the Efik people’, in Daryll Forde (ed.), Efik Traders of Old Calabar (London, 1956), 20. This is to be distinguished from the esere (poison bean) drink, administered as a form of trial by ordeal to suspected witches.

72 Diary of Antera Duke, 8 June 1785, in Forde, Efik Traders, 33. For the term ‘chopping doctor’, used of the mbiam oath (as distinct from ‘chopping nut’, for the esere ordeal), cf. Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies & Central Africa (London, 1863), 379.

73 Hugh Crow, Memoirs of Captain Hugh Crow of Liverpool (London, 1830), 246-7.

74 Müller, in Jones, German Sources, 174; Phillips, ‘Journal’, 224.

75 Felicia Ekejiuba, ‘Igba ndu: an Igbo mechanism of social control and adjustment’, African Notes (Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan), 7/1 (1972), 9-24.

76 Kenneth Onwuka Dike & Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South-eastern Nigeria 1650-1900 (Ibadan, 1990), esp. 118-20, 163, 198-9, 244-5.

77 Lewis, Journal, 139 [22 March 1816].

78 It should be noted, however, that Gbe-speaking (‘Papa’) slaves, exported mainly through Ouidah, were also relatively numerous among those imported into the English Caribbean in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

79 Geggus, ‘Slave society’, 42-3. In fact, as Geggus acknowledges, if slaves designated by the names of individual Gbe-speaking groups (Fon, Hueda, Aja) are added in with those specifically called ‘Rada’, there is no significant difference in the regional strength of the latter among African-born slaves: 16.2% on sugar plantations in the North, 15% in the South, and 15.7% in the West. A marked regional difference emerges only if the Rada are combined with the Nago (Yoruba), who comprised 16.9% of African-born slaves on sugar plantations in the West, 14.7% in the South, but only 8.1% in the North (see Table 5).

80 Müller, in Jones, German Sources, 176.

81 Hazoumé, Le pacte de sang au Dahomey, 46, 136.

82 Ibid., 40-3, 137.

83 Ibid., 27.

84 Ibid., 137.

85 Müller, in Jones, German Sources, 176.

86 Hazoumé, Le pacte de sang au Dahomey, 46.

87 Phillips, ‘Journal’, 226.

88 The only detailed description of the ritual I have traced is that in Hugh Goldie, Old Calabar and its Mission (Edinburgh, 1890), 198-200.

89 Jones, ‘Political organization’, 149, suggests that since slaves were ‘not full lineage members’, the ritual ‘may have been intended to remedy this lack of agnatic ties’.

90 Goldie, Old Calabar, 200.

91 UK Parliamentary Papers, First Report from the Select Committee on the Slave Trade, 1849, Minutes of Evidence, 20 April 1849, Rev. HM Waddell: ‘The two principal slave markets to which the Old Calabar people go are the Ebo [Igbo] and the Qua [Ibibio] ... they buy many more slaves at Ebo than at Qua’. As Waddell noted, slaves were no longer exported through Calabar by this time, but were purchased solely for local use.


Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 476-7.

93 PRO, FO84/858, John Beecroft, 21 Feb. 1851, quoted in K. Onwuka Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830-1885 (Oxford, 1956), 158.

94 Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 478, 643.

95 Ibid., 379.

96 Ibid., 476.

97 Cf. A.J.H. Latham, Old Calabar 1600-1891 (Oxford, 1973), 94-5, 121.

98 Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 644. Waddell does not specify whether this ‘oath of allegiance’ was the blood oath or the Efik mbiam; but the account in Goldie, Old Calabar and its Mission, 199-200, refers explicitly to the administration of the blood oath.

99 Stephan Palmié, ‘Ekpe/Abakuá in Middle Passage’, paper presented at the conference on ‘The Atlantic Slave Trade in African and African-American Memory’, University of Chicago, May 1997.

100 Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 314.

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